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Do You Know About Your Moment of Truth?

The Moment of Truth is the short timeframe when a customer experiences the product or service that many people have often prepared over months. It is the moment when a small, often unintentional mishap has the huge potential to spoil the result of hard work by others in the organisation behind the scenes.

"Moment

Gemba? I was There

When Uwe asked me whether I would like to go to Gemba in order to help understand the client’s process we have been studying, I looked it up on Google. To my surprise, Gemba is not a secluded, unknown part of Singapore. Gemba (现场) is a Japanese word that means “the real place”. Japanese detectives use Gemba to point to the crime scene. In our process excellence context, Gemba stands for the place where the “real value for customers is created”. I was wondering about the need for this. After all, we had received detailed information about both, flow and timing for all processes directly from project teams.

Complaints – The Tip of the Iceberg

“Voice of the Customer” – VOC in short – is a key topic in all kind of customer service, TQM or Lean Six Sigma training and related project work. There are two main categories for VOC data, reactive and proactive. Firstly, proactive data is collected with methods like focus groups, interviews, observations, surveys or test customers. Secondly, reactive data is mainly based on customer complaints, feedback, hotline data or warranty claims. The nature of the human being restricts itself almost always to negative comments through reactive data channels.

Value Complaints - They Carry Valuable Information About Your Processes

Value Complaints – They Carry Valuable Information About Your Processes

Proactive versus Reactive Feedback

Asking staff working in customer service departments about the nature of the feedback they receive from customers will result in answers like “No-one calls to tell us how good we are in delivering our service. Most of the calls – that are not questions – are more or less strong complaints.” On the one hand, this sounds frustrating, “not fair”. On the other hand, “negative feedback” is very powerful due to the fact that someone takes the time and tells us what goes wrong in our processes, hence shows us opportunities for getting better, for getting more competitive, for growing. The quality of this kind of information is usually much better than the feedback received via proactive channels like surveys due to the fact that respondents of surveys do usually not have a stake in the issue.

How do YOU feed back?
Reactive
The other day in Singapore, I had a small complaint about an SBS bus driver who did not really respect me cycling my way on the road. After getting home I took some time to recap what happened and wrote a very detailed letter to SBS to explain the situation.
Proactive
After I spent some days in a hotel in Batam, I received a survey form I needed to fill in before leaving the hotel. Did I fill it in? Make a guess…

The Value of Complaints

Customer research studies in the German financial industry some years ago have shown, that complaints normally reveal only the “tip of the iceberg”. Receiving 50 complaint letters means we get only the feedback from those people who take the time and the courage to complain. Hence, there might be about 1250 customers out there who experience a similar situation but do not complain. May be they go immediately to our competitor if they have a chance. We may never find out. Furthermore, the research has shown that there might be as much as 10 times more negative contact points with our company – like “Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line.” These negative incidents are not “big enough” for a complaint but always impactful enough to drive customers’ decision sooner or later.

Conclusion

Welcome complaints! As long as you get complaints someone is interested in your service and wants to help you improving. Behind each complaint you can expect as much as 25 times the situation that has led to the complaint and as much as 250 negative “Moments of Truth” with your company. Use this valuable and powerful information for taking actions. And, give positive feedback, too!

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Seven Habits … – Habit 2: Moment of Truth

The Moment of Truth is the short time frame when a customer experiences the product or service that many people have prepared often over many months. It is the moment when a small, often unintentional mishap has the huge potential to spoil the result of hard work by others in the organisation behind the scenes. Good process managers know this and put their focus on the Moment of Truth.

The Moment of Truth

The Moment of Truth

When Jack Welch explained his view on management he used to draw a company structure against the common understanding upside down. His explanation went somehow like that:

Who is the most important person for our company? It is our customer. Consequentially, the people who make or break every day’s business are the people who interact most with our customer, our front line staff. The crucial job of the lower management is to make sure their team members at the customer interface have everything they need in order to serve, to impress and to delight the customer. Every level of management has to support their team members with this purpose. My job is to ensure everyone in my company is able and willing to do his best for this objective.

For many of us this is not really new. However, the number of managers – call them process managers – who really go to Gemba for experiencing the Moment of Truth is marginal.

Is it not enough to ask your staff what is going on at the ground level, what happens at the moment of truth? Well, it would if they knew. And, it is a very normal human tendency that information gets “filtered” when it is passed from hand to hand, from level to level. Often there is a factor of guesswork added to the information.

What We Know About the Moment of Truth

Only an hour after running a very simple role-playing process simulation, the 20 managers involved in the process are asked to state the time spent on their own process steps. They merely have to guesstimate the duration for their direct involvement – a non-challenging task, one would assume. To everyone’s surprise the actual time measures more than 300% of the time estimated by the group of managers. Hence, it is not enough to estimate or guess. You need to measure in order to know.

Does this only apply to processes that are new to managers? Not at all. A Lean Six Sigma team’s project focusses on reducing the lead time for treating the customer at a routine service process. During an interim project presentation, the manager who has been directly responsible for that process for many years raised his voice after the team revealed data about the time needed to attend to the customer. He doubted the data; he could not believe that the process took as long as presented. Of cause, the team members were able to show facts… Hence, if you run a process for years, it does not automatically mean you know what happens on the ground. Customers and employees change. And so do processes.

Best Practices

Gemba is the place where your product or service is received and applied. You cannot learn about the Moment of Truth, the usage of your offerings and how well you are able to meet customers’ expectations by conducting an annual survey or by issuing some evaluation forms.

CEOs like American Express’ Kenneth Chenault know about this. He is said to spend time in American Express call centres to pick up calls from customers and listen to their requests. He surely cannot change the customer service level by answering some calls every now and then. However, he walks the talk. As a leader, he knows how important it is to observe and focus on what is critical to customers during the Moment of Truth. And, he expects his employees to “have it in their DNA”.

The former CEO of Singapore’s Alexandra Hospital, Liak Teng Lit, used to host a monthly lunch for a focus group of patients who had just gone through Alexandra’s service. He wanted to hear them out about their experience at the Moment of Truth. This way he learned about hospital processes and how his customers perceive them. Whenever possible, he would look into improving things. .

Conclusion

For managing a process successfully it is essential to know the details about the process. This can only be achieved by a set of carefully crafted instruments put in place:

  1. Make sure your process management is based on meaningful process indicators and real data collected in the right way by people who are taught to do so. Start with the Moment of Truth.
  2. Ensure that this information reaches you without being filtered or otherwise manipulated.
  3. Derive actions based on systematic and comprehensive data analysis following known and accepted rules.
  4. Publish this information in an appropriate manner so that the organisation can learn from it.

And, don’t forget going to Gemba from time to time to observe what happens at the Moment of Truth. The purpose of this is two-fold: Firstly, it helps you getting real information from the ground regularly. Secondly, it sends the right signal to your team members, your colleagues and, last but not least, to your customers.

Moreover, it is very likely that you learn something new about your processes.

See You in Gemba

A team spends months on improving customer-facing branch processes of a bank. After benchmarking with sister companies across the world and after carefully mapping out process steps they come up with an improved flow that drastically reduces the processing time for branch customers. It surely looks like a nice success story. However, they get devastating feedback from the customers whilst piloting the solution in five branches. Why?  

Sushi and more… The Importance of the Moment of Truth

A typical Friday evening starts with a family dinner in a nice atmosphere. This time we decide to visit one of our favourite restaurants for a light dinner with Sushi. Upon arrival we are amazed.

Usually, this place is packed on a Friday evening. Today, more than half of the seats are empty. Therefore, going in and taking a seat at the conveyor belt is very easy. Before the waitress has a chance to approach us we have taken some plates with Sushi already. 

Red Tape? – Not Here

Everyone, undoubtedly, has had the unenviable honour of experiencing ‘bureaucratic government processes.’ Be it applying for your first ID or passport, to initially obtaining a driving license and the inevitable dealings with the tax man. Judging by the time it takes and the “milestones” or number of departments one has to go through when dealing with German government bodies, the processes behind ID, passport or driving license must be highly complex and are usually being done by constantly overworked people. The Red Tape is often unbelievable.

Read Tape - Not HereSome time ago, I had to go to the Singapore Immigration and Customs Authority to receive my PR stamp in my German passport. The process was quite fast and the service very nice. I was about to leave the building when I saw a signboard which ‘advertised’ – “Get your Access Card now”. Since it seems to be a fashion to have a card for almost everything I stopped at the signboard and read the fine print. My conclusion was: “If you travel a lot you can make your life easier with an Access Card”. I turned around to ask a friendly officer for the Access Card counter.

Arriving at the second floor, I approached the counter. “Good afternoon, Sir. How can I help you?” After I had explained my interest in the card the lady behind the counter asked me with a smile: “Do you have your passport?” “Yes” “A passport photograph?” “Sure” “Some money?” “No problem” “Your thumb?” “Yes” “Then we can proceed.”

Being accustomed to typical government processes I imagined receiving my application form and being asked to fill it in, then submitting it and coming back a few weeks later to pick up my Access Card. I was under no illusion that this process would take less than a month.

The first surprise: this nice lady at the counter did not ask me to fill in an application form. She did it for me! I cannot recall any encounter with a German government clerk who would have done this. After signing my application form she asked me to take a seat.

About 15 minutes later, she called me back to the counter – presenting my plastic Access Card with chip and my photograph on top: “Sir, this is your Access Card. Please try at the simulator over there whether it works.” I tried. It worked – of course.

I could not believe what I had just experienced. Between not knowing that an Access Card exists until holding my personal card in my hands – with programmed chip embedded and photograph printed in plastic – pass less than 30 minutes in Singapore. No Red Tape. Impossible! Unbelievable!

This is what I call Process Excellence for Customer Satisfaction, or better: Customer Delight. I would not even expect this kind of performance from a private company, let alone a government agency. Thank you, ICA!

Conclusion

Only outstanding products or services are able to get customers noticing your company, talking about it and recommending it to their business partners and friends. Delivering what customers request is not enough. Customers would not ask for an Access Card delivered within 30 minutes because – for most of them – this is beyond their wildest dreams as it was for me. This kind of solution needs a creative mindset and an innovative organisation.
Keep in mind: Impossible is nothing.

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